Is There No Improvement?

Background Reading

There have been lots of words spewed on the Facebook Timeline over the past few days. I actually wonder what the method is for archiving all this stuff. But setting aside my curiosity about storage options I am also beginning to realize that conflating two or more subjects of interest is a very dangerous thing.

The deaths of several bicyclists in Kalamazoo bumped up against the deaths of several members of the LGBT Community in Orlando. And suddenly all heck broke loose when it came to the general discussion.


People who are willing to remove access to assault rifles are adamant about having legislation that changes the status quo. Those same people (usually bicyclists in the context of these discussions) are however adamantly against having anyone limit their behaviors as a cyclist.


Cyclist tend to be against wearing helmets or bright clothes or in some cases using lights and/or reflectors. And what is very curious is they really, really hate the idea of being licensed users of the roadway or made to endure the same kinds of training with which motorists and motorcycle/motorscooter rides have been burdened.

It comes a matter of principal that cyclists not be scolded for failing to obey the Rules of the Road. The general set of arguments raised are that bicycles are unlike automobiles and motorcycles much less dangerous. In fact it used to be voiced in cycling circles that “Cars Kill, Bicycles Don’t“. Oops!

Now that we have racked up a fair number of deaths on our watch, we are silent about the fact that we can indeed kill. What we do now is offer up a feeble notion that any Gun Lobbyist would be proud of, “We don’t kill that many“. And frankly when you compare the number of deaths due to automobile collisions versus the number of shootings (mass or otherwise) guns seem pretty safe.

We Still Don’t Understand The Radical Idea of Vision Zero

Any journalist who offers up the notion that bicycles are relatively harmless is unlikely to admit that this sort of thinking has any impact on the understanding of the general public regarding our use of the notions surrounding Vision Zero.

Vision Zero is one of those notions that flies in the face of the general mediocrity that we have as humans come to accept in our daily lives. But it is like the commandment of Christ to the woman taken in adultery, “go and sin no more“. We would rather interpret such a stricture along the lines of something like, “look both ways before blowing through a stop light or stop sign“.

Or better yet, we have come up with the best alternative to being sinless, redefining the sin itself. We no longer accept that the Rules of the Road actually apply to us. When the cyclists in SF held their “demonstration” against the crackdown along the Wiggle, they freely admitted that among the things uppermost in their minds was the fact that stop signs should not apply to bicycles. The thinking is that stop signs were designed to keep automobiles from crashing into one another and not bicycles.

But stop signs and red lights have their place if for no other reason than that they help keep cars and bicycles from running over pedestrians and one another. We lost a member of the bicycle community this week. He ran a red light and was crushed by a bus. Some in the cycling community want desperately to deflect the idea of personal responsibility by either offering up that the bus also ran a red light (which was not what the police decided) or that anyone suggesting that cyclists need to behave themselves is patently wrong.

Some of our lapdog journalists are still trying to sell the argument that we need to be more vigilant with regards to cars than we do bicycles. Maybe. But let me offer up these facts. Here in Chicago we have come to recognize that bicycles and pedestrians do not mix well. We have at least one young runner who was struck from behind and left alone to cope with her severe injuries. The Cycling Community here in Chicago was virtually silent. The Active Transportation Alliance saw an opportunity to get more infrastructure by declaring that we needed to separate the Chicago Lakefront Trail (going northward) into two ‘separate but equal‘ routes.

Cyclists had been grousing about the fact that dealing with pedestrians was an intolerable burden when riding on the Chicago Lakefront Trail. In essence this was their way of washing their hands of the culpability of a cyclist and by extension the entire Cycling Community.

Now of course that a person running a stop light has died the debate once again comes around to behaviors. Cyclists steadfastly refuse to be burdened with their own guilt. We have decided that what is needed is of course more infrastructure. So the drumbeat goes on for a safer Michigan Avenue. But the question still remains how do you instill safety into the transportation landscape if there is one group that refuses to be told that their behavior counts?

What About A 3-Feet Rule For Pedestrians?



We cyclists are very fond of playing the Victim Card. But in terms of mortality we are third in line. Motorists suffer the greater number of fatalities followed by pedestrians. And we are in fact guilty of our small share of fatalities when it comes to pedestrians. For some morbid reason we like to stare others in the eye and remark that the number is minuscule. I guess that is our way of saying that we either have no real fault for which to atone or perhaps even more unworthy of us is the idea that we might be pointing the finger at our victims.

We keep trying to make the case that the mass of the vehicle is the problem where fatalities are concerned. But that is to misinterpret the physics of the collision. Speed is what kills!

Save A Life. Slow Down!

Save A Life. Slow Down!

Our ability to have killed two pedestrians in New York City’s Central Park last year in the span of about a month is testament to the fact that a great mass is not required to do the ultimate damage to another human being.

And frankly given our track record in dealing with pedestrians in the crosswalk it is a miracle that more of our fellow citizens on foot have not died at our handlebars. But the count will rise so long as cyclists are oblivious to their part in the mayhem that spoils our roadways.

More Infrastructure May Not Be The Sole Answer

One reason I believe we constantly harp on the idea of greater rounds of spending to install more bicycle infrastructure is because it deflects the blame from ourselves. If the reason someone died at our hands or we ran into a bus is because there is a deficiency in the infrastructure, we get to slink back into the shadows for a while.

Furthermore we get to whine yet again about how dangerous we think things are when a car passes us too closely or cuts us off at an intersection. We are seemingly oblivious to our role in this cultural war each group seems to be waging on the whole of humanity.

Having spent a fair share of time commuting between Chicago and New York City I can say with a fair amount of certainty that the lack of consideration most of the drivers in that city give to one another (and to pedestrians and cyclists alike) is more a testament to the general culture of the place than evidence that any one group despises cyclists.

After all you don’t get to run down two pedestrians in Central Park in the span of a month because cyclists are the most considerate individuals on the roadway. That is simply not true.

What should be asked is why things have not gotten better in New York? Sadik-Khan is doing a ‘victory lap‘ following her tenure as the head of the DOT. And yet the riders of bicycles who daily ply the 100-miles of bike lane streets seem as bitter and upset as before it all started. Is the case that we really need to reexamine the effectiveness of on street bicycle lanes? I have a hunch that the reason her department decided to withhold the data was because it made the supposed ‘solution‘ seem to be less effective than claimed.

Regardless Bicyclists Need To Get Over Themselves

The question I keep coming back to is why are bicyclists so clueless about the things they do which put them in jeopardy? We run red lights as if it were a puzzle to be solved.

Urban Cyclist "Idaho Stop" Two-Step Variation

Urban Cyclist “Idaho Stop” Two-Step Variation

But how we behave on the roadways is not optional. We are either ‘Sharing The Road‘ or we are not. Are car drivers guilty of road rage and bad habits. You bet! But our primary responsibility as a community of riders is to equip ourselves for the daily skirmish that is part of getting to work on roads where the fastest users behave the way we do when on the Chicago Lakefront Trail with respect to pedestrians.

The very same sets of motivations that lead car drivers to take risks that make us unsafe are the same ones we use when dealing with pedestrians. Understanding how we think and more importantly why we have this Tyranny of Speed as part of our makeup might go a long way to protecting pedestrians from us and us from motorists.